Publishing Our Bodies, Ourselves
New England Free Press published Women and Their Bodies, by the Boston Women's Health Collective, in December, 1970 in an edition of 5,000 copies. The price was 75¢. The manuscript was typed, and Free Press staffer Hester Butterfield along with Marilyn Slotkin did the layout to publish it in book form.
"What are our bodies? First, they are us. We do not inhabit them–we are them (as well as mind). This realization should lead to anger at those people who have subtly persuaded us to look upon our bodies (ourselves) as no more than commodities to be given in return for favors.”
— Lucy Candib, “Women, Medicine, and Capitalism” (introductory essay in Women and Their Bodies)
It sold out quickly and in April, 1971 the press published the new edition, now called Our Bodies, Ourselves. The price was lowered to 45¢. As each new printing sold out, the price was lowered, first to 35¢ and then to 30¢.
Free Press staffer Don McKelvey typeset the copy, reducing the 195 page Women and Their Bodies to the 136 page Our Bodies, Ourselves. Both were printed on newsprint to keep the price low.
The Free Press was a natural fit for Our Bodies, Ourselves since it was already distributing tens of thousands of such articles as Woman and Her Mind by Meredith Tax, The Politics of Housework by Pat Mainardi, and Sex Roles and Female Oppression by Dana Densmore, as well as about twenty others. The women's movement was in high gear and the women who wrote these articles were some of the movement's thought leaders.
These titles were often bought in bulk, 25 or 50 at a time. Women bought them to give to others and organized groups ordered even more. Orders for 100 or more copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves were common.
In 1973, the Health Collective took the book to Simon & Schuster where it became a perennial best-seller. Simon & Schuster carried over the basic cover design including Robert Parent's photograph Women Unite.
Simon & Schuster has sold millions of copies in nine editions.
Our Bodies, Ourselves has been translated into over 30 languages.
This printing history of Our Bodies, Ourselves is from the 11th printing in January, 1973, showing that 225,000 copies were in print as of that date.